B2B Programmatic and Precise Targeting: The Truth

February 6, 2017 — by Lauren Fritsky

This interview originally appeared on Dun & Bradstreet.

More B2B marketers are delving into programmatic ad buying, according to the 2017 B2B programmatic outlook by Adweek Brandshare and Dun & Bradstreet. This technology, which  B2C marketers have used successfully for years, enlists automated technology to buy and sell digital media across millions of websites rather than relying on human interactions to secure digital ad placements.

However, specific barriers in the B2B space are inhibiting programmatic success. Among them: B2B’s lengthy sales cycle, insufficient data sets and unclear campaign measurement. Marketers note other challenges, too, ranging from ad blocking and click fraud to attribution and data cost transparency. But topping the list as the No. 1 concern of 42 percent of B2B marketers: targeting the right audiences.

We asked Joanna O’Connell, CMO of programmatic marketing company MediaMath, to weigh in on the seemingly elusive art of precise targeting in B2B programmatic.

Programmatic advertising has been prevalent in B2C, but B2B has been slower to adopt it. Why?

B2B marketers live in a world of trade shows and content creation, and their messages are disseminated through owned channels like websites and email. They might be using search and social, but the realm of paid media has not traditionally played a big part for them in the way it has for B2C.

A big part of the delay is just a learning curve. B2B marketers are starting to get into programmatic because they’re reading about how big an opportunity it is, how much growth there is in the programmatic sector and what makes it so great. There’s a lot of buzz about programmatic’s ability to target precisely, execute fast, optimize in real time, and a million other great things. But you don’t develop the organizational readiness or the skill set overnight. I think this is probably an important lens to lay on B2B’s slower adoption: Programmatic is asking a lot of marketers to speak a new language.

So the “new language” is one of the challenges B2B marketers have with programmatic. What else are they doing (or not doing) that makes precise targeting a struggle in automated digital media buys?

Some B2B marketers are under the impression that they can just log in to a platform and get started. They’re actually better served getting a little education and guidance along the way.

Some of it comes down to talking to peers who might be starting to experiment with this stuff. Go out and find a technology company or service provider who can give you some advice and get you thinking about a meaningful road map in programmatic.

Marketers also need to be an active partner with their agencies and ask smart questions from the beginning: What is your organization doing with programmatic? How are you staffed? What are some examples of successful applications of programmatic? What role does it play in an overall media mix? What kinds of programmatic insights do you find most interesting? Basically, you want them to prove that they can bring intelligent and interesting insights back to you.

And what about B2B marketers’ advertising partners? What do they need to do better?

Some of agencies’ traditional skill sets are changing in an era of programmatic. These firms need to have an understanding of data and a comfort level with technology. They also should think about managing the real customer experience, which extends beyond a single channel. Most importantly, agencies should focus on insights and be an authentic consultative partner.

A critical part of any successful brand-agency partnership is transparency—which is also one of the greatest powers of programmatic. But programmatic can also be done non-transparently if you work with partners who aren’t transparent with you.

Agencies should help B2B marketers understand things like the prices that are being paid, how the machine learning algorithm is making decisions and why it’s picking one impression over another. Then marketers can understand the economies of what’s going on.

Read the rest of the interview here.